5G and the Revolution of the Global Supply Chain

The benefits of 5G are so far-reaching that the technology is sure to be disruptive to the industry as a whole and those who adopt this innovation will have a stark competitive advantage in comparison to their competitors.

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With an ever-present wave of technological innovation, supply chain leaders find themselves weighing the costs of implementation against the benefits of adoption. However, when it comes to 5G, the decision is relatively simple—it is unavoidable, and companies should know how it will impact their business.

According to Accenture, almost 40% of executives believe that 5G will create a “revolutionary” change in daily operations in terms of both speed and capacity. 

The 4G network revolutionized the meaning of smartphones. It allowed video streaming, which enabled the rise of mobile viewing on platforms. While it is too soon to see the exact impact 5G will have and what its implementation will lead to, we are familiar with the increased speed and wider connectivity that network updates enable.

We know that 5G will improve operational efficiency and accuracy in a variety of industries, but particularly logistics, transportation, manufacturing, automotive and retail. The benefits of 5G are so far-reaching that the technology is sure to be disruptive to the industry as a whole and those who adopt this innovation will have a stark competitive advantage in comparison to their competitors. We can expect 5G to be fully implemented in the coming years, but until then, companies should start planning on how to take advantage of this new technology.

Faster speed will enable improved operations and balance customer expectations

In the age of the Amazon and overnight delivery consumers want products when they want them, whether that is now or in three days. That level of convenience and communication is essential to maintaining brand loyalty and surviving the current competitive retail environment. According to Dropoff’s annual study of U.S. consumers, 69% wouldn’t purchase from a retailer again if their delivery was late. 

5G will enable retailers to more accurately predict potential shipping delays and use AI to optimize fleet routes based on real-time data, allowing retailers to provide customers with the ‘up-to-the-second’ tracking they have come to expect. All this ensures a seamless and timely shipping experience.

Cloud edge computing will save supply chain teams time and bandwidth

Through the application of 5G technology, connected devices will see vast improvements in speed, responsiveness and capacity, and this cloud edge computing will ultimately save supply chain teams both time and bandwidth.

While the data communication process between devices was once clunky and even time-consuming, 5G will enable teams to make decisions with the most real-time data possible. Making predictions based on past data will be a thing of the past, replaced by the ability of IoT devices to share data in real time for the most informed decision making-possible. Of course, for this to happen, it is imperative that team members are properly trained on the benefits of 5G–if they are not, they won’t be able to use the technology to its fullest potential.

5G will increase reliability, enabling remote supervision of autonomous delivery

Ultimately, increases in communication speed and wider connectivity capability is important because it enables efficient machine to machine communication. Through 5G, IoT devices will be able to communicate in real-time and suggest, or even make, decisions based on their shared data. To provide an example on the everyday consumer end of the spectrum, we can look to vehicle-to-vehicle communication, which would enable cars to connect in real-time and coordinate on safety measures like speed, traffic flow and hazardous roadways.

According to data from Gartner, we can expect over 19 million connected cars by 2023 in the commercial and consumer industry. However, this also lends itself to the supply chain, an industry that depends upon fast and accurate delivery methods.

GSMA Intelligence estimates that in the next five years, fully self-automated or highly self-automated vehicles will be available at the commercial level. This eliminates the possibility of human error, ultimately allowing for an even quicker delivery process.

Even more revolutionary, 5G technology will increase reliability, as retailers will be able to stream high resolution video from cameras mounted on trailers, warehouses and fulfillment centers, allowing for remote supervision of autonomous delivery. This autonomous delivery capability will not only save time and resources, but also enable supply chain leaders to make the best-informed decisions when planning deliveries by using real-time data. If an autonomous vehicle stumbles across a hazard, it can quickly be communicated via livestream footage (as well as via data to necessary staff). Truckers and IoT devices in high-demand network areas previously experienced communication delays, which could result in slow reaction time in response to upcoming challenges in the supply chain. With 5G, data and recommendations can be made quickly regardless of the popularity of an area.

Ultimately, 5G can completely transform all facets of operations, from data capacity, to communication speed, to location accuracy. The incorporation of 5G will increase visibility and trackability, allowing for better communication throughout the supply chain for customers and logistics providers alike. Supply chains must be ready to adapt to 5G and its capabilities, and prepare to implement this technology into their own systems now, or risk falling behind.